At 35 years old, Jack Tracy may be late to the superstar pop game, but in his new album, appropriately titled Older, he proves he can keep step with the young’uns. “I was a musical theater major in college because, of course, I was,” he explains from his home in New York. “I got spooked into thinking I wasn’t talented enough because I never quite fit in with the thespian crowd, so I made a course correction into a more academic field.” He became a corporate lawyer in New York, working 80-hour weeks, making lots of money, living in a swank upper west side apartment with his partner, and for all intents and purposes, appearing to live the NYC dream. But at 31, he realized he was not fulfilled and that he couldn’t live the rest of his life that way. So he took everything he learned — business acumen, creative writing, ingenuity — and threw them all into his passion for film and music.
JRK: Before we get into the interview can you give readers an idea of who Jack Tracy is, where you are from, and all that good introductory stuff?
JT: I’m originally from Lancaster, PA but I’ve been in New York City since 2005. I run a global legal analysis division of a media company for my coins, and by night I make web series, movies, music, music videos and I’m working on my first book and podcast. I hope to eventually get into vigilante crime fighting.
JRK: You have just come out with a new album entitled, “Older.” Can you explain what it’s about and what the theme of the tracks are?
JT: Growing up, I was an extreme audiophile. I worked a part-time gig at Circuit City in the music department and spent all of my money on CDs. I really enjoyed the construction of an album–placing songs in a specific order to tell an overall story or theme. So, deciding to finally make my own, my first studio album at 35, I wanted to make my 80s-90s album. Because today it’s all about streaming and singles, and I miss the art of constructing an album. So sonically, Older aims to sound like that classic album that’s still in a CD sleeve on the visor of your mom’s van that she pulls out now and then because she doesn’t understand what is going on on the radio and she’s tired of hearing the same 3 songs. But lyrically, I wanted to speak about universal topics from an LGBT point of view. Taking the topics of love, regret, loneliness, sex, anger and giving them a uniquely LGBT point of view that was still relatable to all. Because we are more alike than we are different.
JRK: You experienced an evolution of sorts when you realized you were not being fulfilled with what you were doing. Can you give us some background on that? What prompted the impetus to change?
JT: I was in a relationship in my late 20s, and after I turned 30 I just sort of realized how unfulfilled I was in life. I had a good law firm job, a stable life–I worked hard and then took fancy vacations. And I just had this moment of like…is this it? Is this all I do now until I die? I just work and then take a trip, and then work, and then take a trip…and I wasn’t happy in the relationship but kept it going because at the time I didn’t want my life to change and then one day I just realized it all had to go. That it wasn’t truly me. And I sort of decided to just do all the things I’ve dreamt of doing because…why not?
JRK: You said your inspiration was Janet Jackson. How so?
JT: She is my idol. I grew up with her music, learning every single dance from her iconic music videos–she really is my musical muse. Dance-centric but dabbles across genres and constructs lyrics that stem directly from her inner life. Theatrical yet relatable. And how she is the creative force and boss lady–she’s not a label puppet. She decides the look, the sound, the feel, the message, the tour, the photoshoots…she’s just the total package. An extremely hard worker who does it her way and can show you all the receipts.
JRK: In addition to being a singer, you are also the founder and owner of “Necessary Outlet.” Can you tell us what that is all about?
JT: When I had that mid-life crisis, I guess you can say that’s what it was, I decided that a creative “outlet” was “necessary” to my existence. So I formed this production company with the idea that I would produce small-scale local projects. Little cabaret shows and web series–really just to give me license and a platform to do all the things I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be out on the audition hustle competing to say other people’s words, I wanted to make and star in my own creations and have control over the messages and output. Because some of what I do is quite divisive or incendiary. But when I launched my web series History, I ended up getting a lot of festival selections and awards and then season 2 just ballooned my YouTube subscriber base. And then the letters from people saying how much they connected with what I was doing so…what started as a little side project is growing into something that I hope is starting to look pretty damn professional.
JRK: You act in a show called “History.” Can you tell us about that?
JT: History is my most popular creation to date. Two seasons of six half hour episodes following my character’s love life and friendships in New York City. The point of view is the mid-30s single, gay, professional and how his personal history impacts how he lives his life. How internalized homophobia contributes to the idolization of masculine, how we learn to be guarded and our readiness to fight or flee when faced with conflict, our search for validation, our racism on the apps, our youth obsession, our compartmentalization of sex and love. It’s a uniquely LGBT point of view but truly about our shared humanity. The idea was to tell a story out of our world where the center of the story wasn’t “I’m gay and I need to tell people” or “I need to live my truth” or “I have HIV” or “but my family’s religious.” These are just people living their lives who happen to be gay.
JRK: You have said that shared experiences, thoughts and values can create a genuine connection with other people, and that is what has made your refocused life fulfilled. Can you get into that a bit deeper and give us some insight on how that can help us all deal with the very trying times politically and socially that we are now experiencing in the country?
JT: Politically? Oh god. My first movie, coming out hopefully this fall called “Snowflake”, tackles just that–LGBT people trying to survive in this kind of political landscape. Dealing with the swing of the pendulum back towards social conservatism. But stepping back from politics, I think if I look back at my former life–the parties, the bars, the vacations, the friend circles, the drama–I realize that I was looking to belong to a “team.” And that superficial lifestyle of always being surrounded by a group of “fabulous funny gays” has a way of tricking you into thinking you’re on one. But it’s when the chips are down that people show you who they are, and no matter how entertaining someone is to bar hop with, if they can’t let you crash on a couch when you’re homeless–they aren’t worth your time. So all of that, that whole lifestyle, there was no genuine connection. It was all facade.
Where I’ve found true connection is by putting out these intensely personal projects into the universe. I never thought by telling these stories I’d start getting letters from people reaching out to let me know that I made them feel less alone. Because they felt the same things I did. Or that they were moved to tears, or laughed out loud, or were reminded of an old friend or old love. It’s vulnerability that forges a true connection. No, I don’t know these people, I’ve never met them– the fans–but I feel more connection with them than anyone I may meet up for drinks with. Anyone who watches or listens to my content knows me.
But broader, I think that I have realized that we all, at our core, want true, genuine connection. We want to be heard, we want to be seen, we want to be valued, we want to “matter” to others and to the world. And we do the things society tells us will give us that. Have a “following.” Throw fabulous parties. Go to “the events.” Mingle. Circulate. Be out and about. Be known. But it’s all pretend. Because no one is truly interested in you, they’re interested in whether you’re interested in them. Because you’re all chasing the same dragon at the same time.
And you get into trouble when you tie your sense of self-worth to whether you’re getting that connection or not. Because then your self-worth relies on others, and I’ve tried very hard to reorient myself to make sure I can meet those needs internally–that I don’t need the approval of others, I can give myself approval. I’ve succeeded in being able to be the one who gives myself permission–I do what I want and create what I want and I’m not waiting for someone to tap my shoulder and tell me I’m ‘allowed’–but I still work on trying to make sure my sense of purpose, my sense of accomplishment, is granted from inside not out.
So, that’s the struggle. And my advice is to just be aware of it. Make sure you can step back and see things for what they truly are. You’ll navigate the world better.
JRK: Being an out individual, what do you perceive as being the major hurdles needing to be overcome for LGBTQ folks, and how can we help those who are struggling in the Trump Era with the racism, prejudice and the empowered hate that is poisoning our society and belittling those who are different?
JT: If you asked me this two days ago I’d have a different answer. Last night, on my way to rehearse for my gig to promote Older at Jersey City Pride, I stepped out of my apartment in a gay pride T-shirt. Feet away from my doorstep, in gay-mecca Hell’s Kitchen, a man approached me and screamed “AIDs!” into my ear. He followed me down the street screaming at the top of his lungs that I needed to visit the hospitals in Jamaica where babies were dying of AIDs, because of me, and that I was a murderer. That there was no wonder why my parents hate me. I fortunately asked a straight couple I saw on the street for help and they walked me to my destination.
We can never, ever, ever forget that no matter how much we achieve, how much we progress, that we are the minority. We will always be the minority. Which means that we will always be an easy villain for the majority. Sure, the big banks fund our pride marches now and the big brands put us in commercials and Hollywood makes some of our movies and the Democratic party stands by us but–that’s entirely at the discretion of the majority. Because thankfully still post-Obama, the majority finds homophobia unacceptable. But that can change. Instantly. For no reason other than someone needs someone to blame for society’s ills. Mobs are very easy to form over discrimination because it may go out of style for a time, but it never goes away–just look at Charlottesville.
I got that T-Shirt I was wearing as a parting gift at Mayor DiBlasio’s pride party at Gracie Mansion. Because right now, it’s safe to be a high ranking politician and throw parties for the gays. But you know who also felt very safe? My harasser. Because he knows he also has a well of support.
The fight never ends and our best weapon is visibility. It’s harder to get a majority to turn on people with names and faces. People you know. We need to be everywhere, because it’s easier to believe that people from another country, people who don’t fuck the way you do, people who have different skin colors are evil if you don’t know any of them personally.
So I will continue to wear that shirt whenever I god damn feel like it.
JRK: Given your current state of fulfillment, where would you like to expend your energies next?
JT: I cannot sit still. I just finished fundraising for season 3 of History, which we start shooting in October. I’m going to do at least 3 more music videos from Older (two are already up on the youtube channel–www.youtube.com/necessaryoutlet). I want to start booking bar and club gigs to perform songs from Older–a true dance spectacular that would hopefully make Janet proud. I’m writing a children’s book and launching a serial podcast. I’m finishing editing my first movie and am writing my second. I just finished writing 3 songs for a new album and outlined 2 more web series. I’m just going to keep on trucking and build my little empire.
JRK: Do you have any parting thoughts you like to leave Diversity Rules readers?
JT: Here’s something I try to live by, straight from mama Ru: “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.